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Gov. DeSantis opposes raising unemployment benefits

The governor’s comments come as the state Senate is moving on a bill to increase maximum benefits from $275 a week to $375 a week.

LAKELAND, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis said he doesn’t favor raising Florida’s unemployment benefits, which are some of the nation’s lowest, but is focused instead on getting people back to work. 

At an event Friday in Lakeland, the Republican governor also urged people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and said employers need workers to get back to a semblance of normalcy. 

"Increase benefits? Look, no, I think we're getting people back to work," Gov. DeSantis said in response to a reporter's question. "You see or hear these stories that businesses need more, our goal is to get people back to work. I think there's a lot of demand right now, I'd like to get the unemployment rate below 4 percent if we can, but it's going to take some of these inhibitions moved off and us being able to operate all of our industries. But there is demand in the economy for hiring and that's a good thing."

The governor added the state's unemployment is "fine" at 4.7 percent, below the national average of 6 percent. And, DeSantis said Florida has paid $26 billion in unemployment benefits since the pandemic began.

The governor’s comments come as the state Senate is moving a bill sponsored by Republican state Sen. Jason Brodeur to increase maximum benefits from $275 a week to $375 a week and boost the benefit duration from 12 weeks to 14 weeks.

On Thursday the bill was unanimously approved by a committee. It could reach the Senate floor as early as April 21. 

Unemployment in Florida has been a contentious issue throughout 2020, particularly in light of constant frustrations with the state's unemployment website during the coronavirus pandemic.

In March, Florida's Auditor General released a 30-page report on the $81 million CONNECT system, which highlighted the spike in claims during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and revealed major holes in the system. Dozens of those issues weren't new, with auditors saying concerns were raised as far back as 2014. 

The audit of the unemployment system came after DeSantis ordered an investigation back in May 2020

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